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If you are involved in a legal proceeding such as one over a motor vehicle accident, your case will have a defendant. Knowing the definition of this term is crucial so that you have a full understanding of all of the key parties in your case and their roles. In this article, we’ll explain what a defendant is, as well as their place in a motor vehicle accident case. Read on to learn more.

Key Takeaways

  • A defendant is a person in a legal case who was accused of breaking the law
  • The other party in a case, the one making the accusation, is called a plaintiff
  • In a motor vehicle accident case, which is a civil suit, the burden of proof lies with the plaintiff, not the defendant
  • In a motor vehicle accident case, the defendant is the at-fault party, not their insurance company
  • However, the insurance company must provide their policyholders with an attorney

What Is a Defendant?

In law, a defendant is a person who has been accused of breaking the law. They are the party against whom charges are being brought in the court. This is in contrast with the plaintiff, who is the person who is bringing the suit to the court, ie making the accusation against the defendant. 

In criminal cases such as assault or murder, the plaintiff is usually the state or federal authority that has jurisdiction in the case. In civil cases, such as motor vehicle accidents, however, the plaintiff and the defendant are both individuals. 

It’s important to note that in a civil case, the burden of proof lies with the plaintiff, not the defendant. That means that it is the responsibility of the plaintiff to provide evidence that proves their claims. 

Who Is the Defendant in a Motor Vehicle Accident Case?

There is not always a legal proceeding resulting from a motor vehicle accident. Instead, it is an option for victims to make a claim directly with their insurance and handle everything out of court. 

However, in certain situations, individuals may choose to involve the legal system in their accident. This is usually because the victim and their legal counsel cannot successfully negotiate a settlement with their insurance and/or the at-fault party’s insurance.

In the event that a motor vehicle accident claim is escalated into a legal case, the defendant is the at-fault driver, not their insurance company. However, their insurer is responsible for providing their policyholders with an attorney and paying damages on their behalf.

Defenses in Motor Vehicle Accident Cases

Should you find yourself the defendant in a motor vehicle accident case, it can be helpful to understand what different defenses your legal counsel might use. Some options include:

  • Proving that the plaintiff was as negligent as the defendant was and that they share responsibility for the accident
  • Proving that the plaintiff’s injury or condition was actually pre-existing at the time of the accident and was not caused by the accident
  • Proving that the defendant’s negligence was not the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries
  • Proving that there are other liable defendants in the case
  • Proving that the plaintiff did not take reasonable measures to avoid or reduce damages. For example, this might apply if they did not work following the accident even after they were in a safe condition to return to their job

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